thinking prayer with forgiveness

Over the past weeks we have been explored the possibility and reality of forgiveness. Among other things, we talked about the unconditional forgiveness of God – this forgiveness that undergirds our whole spiritual life – that God persists in loving us and seeking us and walking with us even when we continually fail. We talked about forgiveness as letting – forgiveness as the sometimes-difficult work of our letting go of anger and judgment and bitterness – as God forgives us, so we must forgive others. We also pointed out that within the Christian tradition forgiveness isn’t simply about our own personal healing – rather the trajectory of forgiveness is toward reconciliation.

This morning, before we move into the season of Lent next week, we are going to conclude this brief series. And as we do so I want to pick up just a few themes around the question of forgiveness. More specifically, I want pick up a few themes by thinking prayer and forgiveness together. How does our life of prayer relate to the possibility and reality of forgiveness in our lives. Continue reading

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A lesson in love – from José Sabogal and Marilynne Robinson #presence/absence

I spent a couple of hours at the Musée des Beaux-Arts today, taking in the exhibit: Peru: Kingdoms of the Sun and the Moon. The exhibit traces a vast history of art and culture within Peru, with many astonishing and beautiful pieces. One that struck me was from the indigenismo movement – a painting entitled The Recruit, by José Sabogal (1926). The man is anonymous, but is a representative (for Sabogal) of the strength and independence of the indigenous people of Peru. While it seems that Sabogal was more interested in aesthetics than in portraying the difficult circumstances of indigenous peoples, his work nevertheless seems to show tremendous respect for them – and his work has been a historic factor in the inclusion of indigenous peoples within identity of Peru as a nation.

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This ‘recruit’ is anonymous to me. I know little or nothing of his life or person or family or work or suffering or brokenness. And yet perhaps openness toward him is not precluded by this anonymity – love is not precluded by his distance from me.

Today I was also reading in Marilynne Robinson’s book When I was a Child I Read Books. In her essay on imagination and community she writes these words (which were brought to my mind as I looked at The Recruit):

“Presence is a great mystery, and presence in absence, which Jesus promised and has epitomized, is, at a human scale, a great reality for all of us in the course of ordinary life. I am persuaded  for the moment that this is in fact the basis of community. I would say, for the moment, that community, at least community larger than the immediate family, consists very largely of imaginative love for people we do not know or whom we know very slightly… I believe think fiction [portraiture?] may be, whatever else, an exercise in the capacity for imaginative love, or sympathy, or identification.”

Those in the pew (or on the chair) beside me are in many ways distant from me and unknown to me (absent in their presence), yet life in the Body of Christ means seeing him or her as beloved of God, and means an imaginative and gracious reaching out to them, whoever they are. Today, a lesson in love.

a cardboard cathedral (imagine!)

Sermon from my Gospel and the Gazette series…

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Have you ever built yourself a house out of cardboard boxes? I’m sure that many of us have – even if it was some years ago, now. If you have never built yourself a cardboard house, perhaps you have memories of your children or nieces or nephews doing it. In many ways this seems like such a fundamental part of childhood is North America – cutting out windows, colouring the walls, hanging out and maybe eating your snack in the little cardboard house.

I suspect that it was probably somewhere around the 1950’s that the cardboard playhouse became a staple of childhood. It was around the 40’s and 50’s that large home appliances became commonplace in North America. And by that time, cardboard boxes were also widely in use. What better than a great big fridge box or  a stove box to build a play fort with. Those boxes can be a source of hours and days worth of fun.

Now, it’s fair to say that cardboard has come a long way. Cardboard was first used in Great Britain back in the 1870’s – it was used in tall hats for Victorian gentlemen. Today, cardboard is everywhere –especially in cardboard boxes. The advantage of cardboard is that it is at the same time light and strong. And of course it is recyclable, which is also a huge plus. Continue reading

Imagination

The concept of imagination is catching my imagination these days. Not that I’m a particularly imaginative person – for me it takes hard work to be creative, and even then there’s not much originality in what I do.

At the same time, I’m inclined to think that creative expression is almost always hard work, even for those supposedly gifted souls – you know, the artists and poets.

I’m on an imagination kick because I’m trying to be imaginative about ministry, and about the way the church (and the congregation I serve) might articulate the gospel in our time and place. Imagination builds out of the resources of the past, anticipating the new and different while in a profound sense remaining faithful to the heart of the gospel (the Spirit improvises on the gospel, and we become creative actors in that improvisation – thanks Jeremy Begbie). But to be an imaginative person is thus necessarily to live in a tension – between what is and what might be. Continue reading